Media Release from 5/6/16
Multi-Agency Search for Missing Camper in Oak Creek Canyon

Debra Schwartz

Debra Schwartz

Oak Creek Canyon, AZ – On Friday, May 6, 2016 at about 9:07 am 911 dispatchers received a call from an individual who identified himself as the campground host for the Pine Flat Campground located in Oak Creek Canyon. According to the caller an adult female who was camping by herself failed to check out of her camping space as she was scheduled to do. The host identified the missing camper as fifty-nine year old Debra Ann Schwartz of Tempe, Arizona.

Upon the Deputies arrival at Pine Flats they found the missing person’s vehicle and her assembled tent and other camping equipment. It appears that Debra Schwartz left her campground for an unknown destination and failed to return as scheduled. Coconino County Sheriff’s Command Staff, Deputies and Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue personnel are conducting an intensive ground search aided by the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue Helicopter based in Kingman, AZ. Although the helicopter crew has conducted multiple flights in the area they have not detected the presence of the missing person.

Sheriff’s Detectives are conducting a parallel missing person investigation in an attempt to determine the circumstances leading up to Debra’s disappearance. Anyone with information regarding the current location or the circumstances leading up to Debra Schwartz’s disappearance are urged to immediately contact the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office at one of the below listed numbers. Attached are a color photograph and missing person flyer on Debra Ann Schwartz.


Media Release from 5/7/16
Multi-Agency Search for Missing ASU Professor Debra Schwartz Continues

Flagstaff, AZ – Day two of the search for Debra Schwartz who was found to be missing from her campsite at Pine Flats campground yesterday, continued throughout today utilizing numerous resources from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit, the Yavapai County Search and Rescue Unit, the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue unit and the Arizona State University Police Department. .

Yesterday afternoon ten CCSO SAR personnel conducted hasty searches of the two trails closest to the Pine Flat Campground which are the Cook Stove trail and the Harding Springs Trail. This is a quick and efficient search by small teams that travel quickly to the likely spots and by the route of least resistance. A hasty search is generally the first tactic used in the early hours and days of a search. The team also conducted searches along Oak Creek for a distance of approximately one mile each on either side of the Pine Flats campground. They also conducted perimeter searches on both sides of the Pine Flats campground, lit should be noted that the campground is split by Highway 89 A. An Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter and crew based in Kingman, AZ conducted numerous overflights beginning at the campsite which is the location where Debra was last known to be. The crew also conducted aerial searches of several trails located in close proximity to Pine Flats and the area located east of the campground.

Day two of the search for Debra Schwartz began early this morning just after daylight with more than forty ground searchers from both the Coconino and Yavapai counties search and rescue groups. Eight of the searchers were equipped with search dogs. Debra Schwartz is a professor at Arizona State University. Coconino County Sheriff’s Detectives are working closely with the ASU Police Department to accumulate any information that may be prove to be helpful in locating Debra Schwartz and in determining the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. Investigators have determined that is was Debra’s intent to camp at Pine Flats Tuesday to Thursday of last week. Anyone with information regarding the current location or the circumstances leading up to Debra Schwartz’s disappearance are urged to immediately contact the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office at one of the below listed locations.


Media Release 5/8/16
Missing Person Debra Schwartz Found Deceased

Flagstaff, AZ – Today at approximately 11:10 am the body of missing hiker Debra Schwartz was located in an unnamed slot canyon below the rim of Oak Creek Canyon. A three member technical rescue team that was tasked with checking the slot canyons located her.

On this third day of this intensive search for the missing ASU Professor, rescuers were in the field and under way by daylight. Today the search resources consisted of:

  • One Team of five searchers mounted on horseback
  • Three teams of off-road vehicles
  • Six teams of ground searchers with five people in each team
  • One dog team consisting of 3 dogs and six handlers
  • Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Air Rescue Helicopter and crew
  • Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue Helicopter and crew based in Flagstaff
  • The Yavapai County Jeep Posse
  • Three technical rescue teams with three technicians in each team

Several slot canyons that run from the rim to the canyon floor were partially searched yesterday however steep inclines, very rough terrain and thick underbrush made conditions unsafe for conventional ground searchers. The three technical rescue teams that were deployed today were assigned to thoroughly check the slot canyons in the area. At approximately 11:10 am today a technical rescue team that was searching an unnamed slot canyon from the rim down discovered Debra Schwartz’s body. It should be noted the this technical rescue team completed two rope rappels to make their way into the canyon to a spot where they were able to see the body and then a third rappel to actually reach the body. She was located approximately ½ mile from her campsite. The body will be transported to the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office. Coconino County Sheriff’s Detectives will work with personnel from the medical examiner’s office in an attempt to determine the cause and manner of death.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and the Yavapai County Search and Rescue Unit for providing ground searchers, dog search teams, mounted searchers, the Yavapai County Jeep Posse, their Air Rescue Helicopter and their technical rescue teams. We would also like to thank the Arizona Department of Public Safety for the assistance of their air rescue helicopters and crews based in Flagstaff and in Kingman.

We are also grateful for the investigative assistance given by the ASU Police Department. Finally we cannot express the extent of our continuing gratitude to all of the tireless men and women of the Coconino County Search and Rescue Unit.